Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/29/1999 08:07 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 192-PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS                                                                                   
CHAIR JAMES announced the first item on the agenda is HB 192, "An                                                               
Act relating to reciting the pledge of allegiance by public school                                                              
Number 018                                                                                                                      
RICHARD SCHMITZ, Staff to Representative James, explained HB 192                                                                
amends the existing state flag statute to include the requirement                                                               
that the Pledge of Allegiance be offered in the public schools on                                                               
a regular basis.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY cited that the Pledge of Allegiance is an                                                                
every-morning activity in the Kenai Peninsula School District and                                                               
that the staff members are encouraged to conduct different                                                                      
assignments because reciting the pledge becomes rote and has little                                                             
meaning until it is discussed.                                                                                                  
MR. SCHMITZ said HB 192 would also standardize the state.  He                                                                   
mentioned Anchorage and Fairbanks students are required to give the                                                             
Pledge of Allegiance and that the Aleutian East School District                                                                 
recently instituted a pledge policy which they found to be very                                                                 
Number 077                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY emphasized that students who do not                                                                      
participate, due to a religious belief or other, should not be                                                                  
identified and ridiculed.                                                                                                       
MR. SCHMITZ referred to page 1, lines 9 and 10, "or maintain a                                                                  
respectful silence," and noted it would be an option.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA pointed out that supreme court cases                                                                    
recognized the religious rights not to pledge and that you don't                                                                
even necessarily need to be respectful.  Furthermore, a person can                                                              
dissent from the pledge if he or she wants to remain silent.                                                                    
Representative Kerttula asked, "Have you thought about taking out                                                               
the word 'respectful' and have it just be 'maintaining silence'                                                                 
because that word might connotate a little bit greater meaning than                                                             
actually the courts have recognized."  Her second point was it may                                                              
include teachers and suggested changing the language to "anyone or                                                              
any person."                                                                                                                    
Number 115                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES said she doesn't believe there is anything wrong with                                                               
the word "respectful" and indicated that she would rather go to the                                                             
supreme court rather than to remove the word "respectful."                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA emphasized that there could be real                                                                     
problems with the bill without the two constitutional points.                                                                   
CHAIR JAMES believes people should be treated with fairness and                                                                 
respect and she recognizes anyone's rights that are listed in the                                                               
Bill of Rights.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN hoped people are respectful when saying the                                                                 
pledge in honor to those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for                                                              
our flag.  He added that being respectful is appropriate.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE WHITAKER said he is glad the word is in the                                                                      
Number 182                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY asked, what about the courts and the                                                                     
determination of "students may" to say "any person may."  He                                                                    
stressed the point that staff is generally protected by agreements                                                              
but volunteers are not.                                                                                                         
CHAIR JAMES said she doesn't think it changes the teacher's rights,                                                             
but we'll take that into consideration.                                                                                         
Number 237                                                                                                                      
DENNY WEATHERS, testified in support of HB 192, via teleconference                                                              
from Cordova stating respect should be included for all of them                                                                 
(teachers, students, and volunteers) and read the following                                                                     
     I think this bill is very important to Alaska and the future                                                               
     of America.  Many adolescents and adults I talk with cannot                                                                
     recite the Pledge of Allegiance.                                                                                           
     Children in Alaska's public schools are being taught that                                                                  
     America is a democracy even though the Constitution of the                                                                 
     United States of American ... and the Alaska Statehood Act ...                                                             
     guarantees every state in the Union a republican form of                                                                   
     government and the Pledge of Allegiance reinforces "to the                                                                 
     republic for which it stands."                                                                                             
     [She explained the history of the American flag].                                                                          
     I support and will defend HB 192 as I will the flag of the                                                                 
     United States of America which will be 222 years old on June                                                               
     14, 1999 and I will continue to pledge allegiance to the flag                                                              
     of the United States of America and to the republic for which                                                              
     it stands as Americans have been doing for the past 106 years                                                              
     and would hope others would too.                                                                                           
Number 314                                                                                                                      
CAROL NILSON testified in support of HB 192 via teleconference from                                                             
Fairbanks.  She said she supports the following text:                                                                           
     United States and Alaska flags shall be displayed of upon or                                                               
     near each principal school building during school hours and at                                                             
     other times the governing body considers proper.  The                                                                      
     governing body shall require that an appropriate flag exercise                                                             
     be held regularly in each classroom, at school assemblies,                                                                 
     and, if feasible, at interscholastic events.                                                                               
MS. NILSON also supports the choice of maintaining a respectful                                                                 
silence.  If passed, she believes the bill's action may help to                                                                 
bring a more patriotic attitude toward our country.                                                                             
Number 355                                                                                                                      
DARROLL HARGRAVES, Executive Director, Alaska Council of School                                                                 
Administrators, appeared before the committee noting that he is                                                                 
speaking for himself because his membership hasn't informed him of                                                              
what their position is.  He told the members when he was a teacher                                                              
the children learned and memorized the Pledge of Allegiance and                                                                 
it's saddening to find junior and senior students today who have                                                                
not.  He said he cannot understand what's wrong with the Pledge of                                                              
Allegiance in a classroom because we recite it at sporting events                                                               
and we hear it in the chambers of the legislature.  He also                                                                     
mentioned the students are meant to feel okay about removing                                                                    
themselves from the classroom and from that activity and believes                                                               
no harm is being done to those individuals.                                                                                     
MR. HARGRAVES said he believes there is a provision which allows                                                                
flags to be displayed in the classroom, furthermore HB 192 adds                                                                 
that flags will be displayed around the buildings.  He concluded,                                                               
"But the sad thing is that because of a rebellious nature on the                                                                
part of some staff, I'm afraid in public schools, in recent                                                                     
decades, they will not put those flags up in the classroom.  So we                                                              
have a situation where I think it's okay to call attention to the                                                               
need of the flag in the classroom, and I think there's a need to                                                                
teach children the Pledge of Allegiance."  Mr. Hargraves commended                                                              
Chair James for introducing HB 192 and stated, without polling his                                                              
membership, he believes the vast majority of Alaska Council of                                                                  
School Administrators will support the Pledge of Allegiance in the                                                              
Number 417                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES explained HB 192  doesn't require that a flag be in the                                                             
classroom, however the new language states, "The governing body                                                                 
shall require that an appropriate flag exercise be held regularly                                                               
in each classroom," and they can't do that without a flag.                                                                      
MR. HARGRAVES mentioned one of the first things he did when he was                                                              
a superintendent was he bought enough flags to put in every                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN indicated he heard rumors that some people in                                                               
the U.S. do not want to pledge allegiance due to the reference of,                                                              
"One Nation Under God."  He asked Mr. Hargraves if that's a problem                                                             
in Alaska.                                                                                                                      
MR. HARGRAVES replied, not in Alaska, unless a person doesn't                                                                   
believe in God.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA mentioned the "Jehovah's Witness" is one of                                                             
the dissenting groups because they do not pledge to anything,                                                                   
therefore, the supreme court allowed them not to say the pledge.                                                                
Number 464                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA offered Amendment 1 which changes the                                                                   
title,"by public school students," to:                                                                                          
     An Act relating to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public                                                             
     Line 9,                                                                                                                    
          Delete:  Students                                                                                                     
          Insert:  Any person                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA explained that, "Any person," clarifies                                                                 
that if staff, or teachers' aids were in the classroom they would                                                               
recognize that they too had a right to leave or remain silent.  She                                                             
emphasized that if that isn't included, it might add confusion over                                                             
whether it was just a student's right or everyone's right.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if a teacher refuses to participate, will                                                             
they have to bring someone in to lead the class in the pledge.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA replied she supposed so since it's their                                                                
constitutional right, however someone could come in or a student                                                                
could lead the pledge if they wanted to.                                                                                        
Number 489                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL objected to the amendment because if a staff                                                             
person felt strongly about it he or she could be excused or stand                                                               
silently as a student might.                                                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES mentioned Representative Hudson had arrived.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY supports Amendment 1 because it encompasses                                                              
not just the students but mostly anybody within the building and                                                                
that the pledge has been recited by his students on a voluntary                                                                 
basis.  He also noted that it is broadcast over the public system                                                               
in many schools and that it is an encouraging lesson for elementary                                                             
students to volunteer to lead the class.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he opposes the amendment because it's a                                                                
constitutional right, and if we address it specifically, it doesn't                                                             
change that right.                                                                                                              
Number 536                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES said she is troubled with changing the language because                                                             
the emphasis is for students and it has nothing to do with teachers                                                             
and volunteers or other folks because their rights are still there.                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON doesn't believe there is that problem because                                                             
HB 192 does not state that the teacher or that any student has to                                                               
cite the pledge, it simply states that the governing body (probably                                                             
the superintendent or the principal) has to make it available.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA explained that if this were to become law,                                                              
only the body of the text would be in the statute and everyone                                                                  
won't have the benefit of hearing this discussion to understand                                                                 
that it was only directed to students.  She also noted that the                                                                 
title of the bill won't be seen to recognize that it was aimed just                                                             
at students, therefore, it will be confusing to people.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said people are allowed to do, district by                                                              
district, what they do.  She further stated, "I don't see the                                                                   
problem, I don't see why we need the bill but if we do need the                                                                 
bill and we want to make a statement, I think we should at least be                                                             
clear that this is everyone's right not to do this - and I do think                                                             
it will result in some confusion.  So just to try to maintain the                                                               
constitutionality, I think it would be better to have it be any                                                                 
person.  I thought about what the sponsor just said about wanting                                                               
to be sure we have public school students in the title, you could                                                               
say something like, 'Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance by public                                                                
school students and in public schools,' because especially for                                                                  
instance if we're doing it at interscholastic events you're                                                                     
probably going to have parents and other people around as well.  So                                                             
that's why I'm offering the amendment, it's just for the sake of                                                                
clarity since this is something new for us."                                                                                    
Number 610                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES pointed out that HB 192 was prompted by young students                                                              
whose teachers told them the Pledge of Allegiance is not a good                                                                 
thing.  She then requested a roll call vote on the amendment.                                                                   
Upon a second roll call vote, Representatives Smalley, Kerttula and                                                             
Whitaker voted in favor of adopting proposed Amendment 1 and                                                                    
Representatives  Hudson, Ogan, Coghill and James voted against it.                                                              
Therefore, Amendment 1 failed by a vote of 3-4.                                                                                 
Number 669                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON moved to report HB 192 out of committee with                                                              
individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note.                                                               
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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